Who Murdered Winthrop Carlson: A Choose Your Own (Mis) Adventure
Who Murdered Winthrop Carlson: A Choose Your Own (Mis) Adventure Mystery
By Davis Strauss
Directed by Chuck Dent
Playwright’s Round Table
Blue Venue, 2010 Orlando International Fringe Festival</strong>
I’ll start with a disclaimer: I belong to PRT, submitted a script for this project, and contributed some sound effects, but I’ve been asked to publish a few comments on “Winthrop Carlson anyway. So here we go: Hardboiled detective stories are a staple of short play festivals, they offer some easy tropes to write against, have an element of mystery and romance, and tough guy dialog is easy to write. This twist here? The audience gets to steer the course of the show, as in the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series by Bantam Books.
Natty Winthrop Carlson (Eric Kuritzky) is a wealthy industrialist who fears for his life. He invites gumshoe Edward Reynolds (Steven Pugh) to dinner and to meet his family. He’s dead a few pages later with everyone else on stage a suspect. As Reynolds investigates, the audience is periodically asked to decide questions like “Should Reynolds question the maid or look for the murder weapon?” This element of improv makes the different each time, but suppresses any detective insight Reynolds may have, leaving the investigation seem flat.
So it’s not a very good mystery novel, but the acting makes up for that. Once you get past Reynolds Sam Spade dialog, Pugh is an oily and convincing private dick. Helga the maid (Megan Kachur) had a sexy Terri Garr quality, while Beverly Carson (Nikki Darden) was icy gorgeous as Winthrop’s Trophy wife. Sam Waters played the bumbling regular police detective Malone, his frothy anger bounced off Reynolds while Crayford Carlson (Eric Morris) flitted about like a nervous Woody Alan. There are laughs here and as a detective parodies go, this is certainly one of them. Come for the acting, not the drama.
This event is part of the 2010 Orlando International Fringe Festival. For schedule and ticket information, please visit http://OrlandoFringe.org